Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Could NFL Sunday Ticket Go Online? Google In Discussions And A List of the Most Likely Bidders on Rights

The NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, which helped make DirecTV the dominant force it is today, is set to be up for renewal in 2014. While negotiations seem are ongoing according to reports, there are always hits and snags that get in the way of making these deals work out. DirecTV has also openly stated in the past that it’s very open to moving on if the price is too high, and based on the numbers from the NFL’s other contract extensions with NBC, ESPN, CBS and FOX; those numbers might get higher than DirecTV wants them to.

If DirecTV isn’t able to secure an extension of its rights before the Super Bowl, don’t be surprised if some new disruptive technologies pull a “Fox” and surprise the world with a huge bid that moves the package to a digital product. Of course, cable operators such as Comcast and TWC (who have been actively acquiring sports rights lately) might have something to say before anything like that happens and they could possibly form a joint bid with DirecTV to keep out of market games on traditional programming providers.

But when all is said and done, don’t be shocked if a new emerging programming provider decides to take the rights. Here’s is my handicapping of the most likely disruptive technologies which could take the NFL’s rights.

GOOGLE – YouTube has struggled with becoming a force for sports programming. They’ve dabbled into cricket, funded channels for SB Nation/Bleacher Report and serve as a major hub for extended NBA highlights but besides that, there’s not much available in this category. With these rights, could Google launch the first legitimate online competitor to ESPN?

Could an NFL package be the spark which forces Google to invest in and produce a multi-channel sports talk, analysis and highlights network on YouTube? Getting NFL Sunday Ticket would be a great coup for extending YouTube’s efforts to provide TV-quality content online and could also be used for Google’s future plans of starting an online pay TV service. Larry Page has already met with Roger Goddell so this is more likely to happen than you may think.

NETFLIX – The streaming media service which started out as a company that sent DVDs by mail has become a force to be reckoned with in the television world. The company has been aggressively investing in original content and already has a show, “House of Cards”, which could be a big winner in next month’s Emmy Awards. Reed Hastings, its CEO, said in a recent conference call with investors that he’s open to investing in live content but that it’s not the direction he’s looking to go at this time.

With a package like NFL Sunday Ticket though, Netflix would have the leverage to increase prices and draw new consumers to its brand new shows. They could also garner enough new customers to invest in even more original programming.

APPLE – Apple has a new TV set which they proclaim will change the way we watch TV. It’s hard to get people to change in life and it’s been difficult for Apple to get customers to buy Apple TV’s compared to the success which they’ve had with IPhones and IPads.

If they acquired NFL Sunday Ticket, they would have the benefit of exclusivity to those games which could spark up interest in its product. Many techies have been raving about it, but more people would be inclined to get it if this deal were to go through.

SONY – Last week, it was announced that Sony acquired rights to programs from Viacom which owns MTV and BET. They’ll be using those rights for a new online pay TV service which will be available on Playstation, Sony tablets and other devices.

Sony is the first company to acquire programming rights for an online pay TV service and with NFL rights, Sony would take the lead in creating the biggest online threat DirecTV and Comcast have ever faced.

Whatever happens, let's hope the Manning brothers commercials promoting NFL Sunday Ticket are here to stay, lol.

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